This Saturday, Sept. 17, is the 2011 Jazz Grooves Atlanta Smooth Music Festival, an opportunity for students hear a cadre of smooth jazz musicians across the country. Held at the Mable House Theater in Mableton, Ga., it is an eight-hour concert starting a 1:30 p.m. and a chance to hear a type of music that’s both high energy and filled with a rich, cultural history.

Smooth jazz is the contemporary descendant of traditional jazz, which is normally associated with musicians like Miles Davis, the jazz trumpeter. It often features popular music like pop rock and R&B, but sets it to a jazz cover.

While often conflated with elevator music, smooth jazz styles can range anywhere from relaxed and low-key to energetic and festive.

“I would say the most interesting aspect is the fact that it’s a music festival rather than a concert. We have a festival atmosphere [and] it’s an outdoor event,” said Joe Cleveland, Managing Partner of Marietta’s Jazz Grooves, presenters of the Atlanta Smooth Music Festival.

The entire festival is dedicated to smooth jazz and features national and internationally renowned artists. This year’s show includes performances by Fattburger, Nick Colionne, Steve Oliver, Jackiem Joyner and Jeff Sparks.

“For any great pop or R&B song, there’s probably a smooth jazz musician who’s covered an instrumental version of it,” Cleveland said.

Fattburger, the headline act, is a musical group that plays a fusion of Latin-influenced jazz and funk. Another of the more notable musicians is guitarist Nick Collione, a fan favorite of the festival. His most commonly played piece is “Rainy Night in Georgia”, a popular, slower song and one of the few in his standard with vocals. Like Fattburger, his music is an eclectic mix of R&B, funk and blues. On the other end of the spectrum is guitarist Steve Oliver. Playing more pop-oriented songs, Oliver can make his guitar sound like a drum or piano.

The festival opens with a more local flavor through a performance by saxophonist Jeff Sparks. His music, while very easy-going, has a traditional jazz sound.

The last musician, saxophonist Jackiem Joyner, typically performs songs that are much more bluesy and beat-heavy with a healthy dose of the modern R&B sound.

This will be the festival’s fourth year operating. It’s an exciting opportunity to hear a type of music integrally tied to America and Atlanta’s musical history.

This is a festival for anyone who wants to experience popular songs set to the context of smooth jazz.